Transforming dreams into living art, interior design is much like other creative endeavors but with the added benefit of transforming spaces, lives, and possibly even changing the way we view and interact with the world around us. Reminiscing over his beginnings and the journey his career has taken him on, British born Barrie Livingstone is no stranger to celebrity or the trappings of extreme wealth. Recalling his beginnings in Miami to his work in Malibu, Livingstone describes his talent and the need to create as an addiction that compels him to create and move the needle forward.
Discussing his work for Cher in her home, Livingstone reminds us that pictures can only convey so much of his work and that there is a tangible, living element that needs to be experienced and “felt” in order to fully comprehend his artistic vision for a space. Moving beyond his work, we turn to other projects such as his groundbreaking book, “Interior Design Tips Every Realtor Should Know But Doesn’t.” When asked what inspired him to create this work, Livingstone recalled his days as a realtor in Malibu and how little anyone seemed to know about the logistics and cost of design.
Thinking critically and with his audience in mind, Livingstone drew from his well of inspiration to create the book which gives practical, actionable advice for realtors, homeowners, and others who want to understand what it takes to make an excellent first impression in real estate. Turning again to art, we discuss the House of Barrie, an artistic and design experience that helps imbue any space with an “artistic” quality that is unmistakably part of Barrie Livingstone’s signature style. Wrapping up, we ask about daily life, what inspires and transforms him, and what he wants the world to know about Barrie Livingstone artistically and philosophically.
Barrie, you have over 36 years of experience in interior design. What led you into the industry to become the designer to the stars
In an industry full of creatives, interior designers like actors and musicians are really a lot alike. We create. It’s only natural that celebrated people who are creative like to work with others that are also creative. I have always been surrounded by extreme wealth and celebrity, although it is not where I came from.
How did you begin working with celebrities, and what was your first project with a “star”?
Opening a design showroom with a partner South Beach Design Group, on Lincoln Road back in 1996 was a ballsy move. The area was rough and full of artists and rich from New York, Europe and South America. Many of them came to Miami Beach for an adventurous life, and with that came purchasing property there.
Miami provides the perfect backdrop to live a glamorous life. The early celebrities I designed included Danny Glover and his wife, who were furnishing their San Francisco home and came in. Aretha Franklin came to town, and we were selected to design her backstage room and used these fabulous Patrick Naggar gold leaf screens on skateboards with pony hair pigtails. It was quite outrageous. When moving to LA, my old design school pal, who was part of the team that did Versace Palazzo and Cher’s Miami home, asked me to join as they completed Cher’s Malibu home, which is why I ended up in Malibu. From there, I sat on a plane next to Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and designed his first Hidden Hills home, as well as Kevin Richardson’s (Backstreet Boys) home in the Hollywood Hills.
What was the first major project that led you to realize you had made it as an interior designer?
The first time I received a check for interior design services was what I considered a major accomplishment. A stranger became a client and paid me for my design talent, and it became a lifelong addiction which I have nurtured over the years. The first public space I designed was the nightclub Lua on Espanola Way on South Beach. That was a great feeling because everyone I knew was able to experience it in a way that when you design a private residence, people only see pictures they do not feel what you created.
One of your most famous projects was working on the interior design for Cher’s mansion. What were the challenges you encountered when working on Cher’s home?
The physical size of the home was itself a challenge given its nature, a 3 acre, 16,000 sq ft compound ground-up build. Initially, I was hired part-time, but it became apparent after the first full-time week that there was a large volume of items that needed to be prepared for her move-in date.
Can you explain to us the television projects you are currently working on? When can we expect this to air?
It is no secret that travel is at the heart of my core. What I love most about it is It keeps you fresh and creative. I have always been interested in how humans occupy our dwellings globally. I have visited 66 countries to date. Right now, I am working on a design travel show called ‘Mr. Livingstone I Presume’. We shot the first episode in Iceland.
Barrie, tell us about your book, Interior Design Tips Every Realtor Should Know but Doesn’t. What was your inspiration for writing it?
As an interior designer, I have always been either preparing a home, building one for occupancy, or making a home look its best in order for it to sell. What I designed wasn’t a foreign concept to me, as realtors are a designer’s best friend. They know in advance who is moving in and who is moving out.
A property that looks its best will always sell for top dollar, and I wanted to highlight what can be done to help realtors and homeowners present their homes in the best possible way.
When I first became a realtor walking through these incredible Malibu and Beverly Hills homes, I was struck by how little many realtors knew about the cost of design and what it costs to renovate. Things have shifted dramatically since 2010 as the popularity of home remodeling shows has peaked. I have a list of items that need to be done to make a house look its best. These include ensuring all electric switches and plugs match, never painting hinges, and ensuring every light fixture is in clean and good working order. I sat down to put pen to paper, and I wrote 24,000 words in three weeks.
Can fans of your work expect another book in the future or any other projects?
In the future, another book looms, but living between Hollywood and Los Cabos makes it hard to sit and write.
Tell us about your store, House of Barrie. It has some incredible pieces of future and other items.
House of Barrie is an artistic and design experience. I believe that one should use their best items every day. Each item has an artistic quality about it and has been selected to be treasured and loved wherever it goes in your home. We didn’t set out to create the ultimate gift shop because interior design has always been my focus, but the candles, vases, boxes, books and other items all make such wonderful gifts for oneself or a loved one.
Barrie, if you could go back in time and give yourself advice before embarking on your career, what would it be?
Never think you cannot do something yourself. Also, at some point, we need to trust that others can assist. Sounds like a dichotomy for a control freak, as the design is absolutely pernickety, and we need it precisely a certain way, or it’s all over.
What is the secret to being an industry leader in the interior design business?
It’s no secret that listening to your own ideas and beating your own drum is what will attract people to you as a designer. Having the guts to push forward and never ever to give up. I also believe in always striving for perfection.
Barrie, how is a day in your life?
I love my days in Los Cabos the best. The store is positioned in the midst of the resort Palmilla, with The One and Only Hotel at our door. I’m typically up early, with coffee, and have my emails done at 9 am. Then, I stop by a project before entering the store around 11. I work with such an amazing staff. We meet incredible people, as we never know who will walk in the door.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I think I wear my heart on my sleeve to most and probably to my disadvantage. I like to believe that all people are good and strongly avoid takers. I like to believe that all people are good and strongly avoid takers. Oh, and I hate cilantro. Try living in Mexico with that affliction as its in everything lol.
Choose two of your favorite quotes and write them here.
“Less is more” Mies Van de Rohe. It’s at the heart of all my designs.
“What is the difference between a child’s painting and one who chooses to paint like a child? “ Dame Joanna Lumley “Patsy” Ab fab 1992
If you had the power to change just one thing in the world, what would it be?
For mankind to be less selfish and more selfless. But until then, I’ll start off by teaching myself to have more patience. A job that my dear husband Alex has plenty of with me.
To know more about Barrie Livingstone and House of Barrie please visit https://houseofbarrie.com/